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Topical Questions

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 23 January 2020

As we leave the European Union, this great country has a huge opportunity to make the case for freedom and equal rights across the globe. We will be a driving force in the rights for women, including every girl having at least 12 years of education, and we will also push forward LGBT rights, including hosting a major international conference in May.

In Britain, we will continue to ensure that, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or where you people in the country, they are able to live the lives they want.

Torness power station in my constituency is protected by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Female officers are now expected to work until 67. Does the Minister accept that, as well as the injustice of women losing their state pension entitlements, there is an injustice to women officers in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary who are expected, at an inappropriate age, to do a job that is physically arduous and demanding? Should the maxim not be dignity in retirement, rather than work until you drop?

On the subject of women working, one of the great things that this Government did early in the 2010 Session was to make sure that we do not have compulsory retirement and that we do take advantage of the skills of older people into their 60s and 70s. I am very happy to take up the specific issue with the relevant Department, but in general it is right that we have more flexibility and more opportunity for older people.

T2. Last year, the women and enterprise all-party group launched its first report, “Pathways to Progress”, which drew on the experiences of a large number of female business owners and gave recommendations to Government, financial institutions and businesses on how we can encourage more female entrepreneurs to start or skill a business. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can best unlock that opportunity, which has the potential to add an extra £250 billion to the UK economy? (900385)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: there is a huge opportunity to get more people, particularly more women, starting their own businesses. I would be delighted to meet him and work with the all-party group to make it happen.

The Home Secretary’s response to a question on race relations was actually quite damaging. I am really pleased that the Minister is listening to Labour MPs, but can she clarify what is happening with the Government’s race and disparity unit, and outline steps that she is taking to address the fact that there are no women of colour in top civil service jobs?

The Home Secretary was absolutely reflecting the fact that Britain is a great country in which to live and that we have very low levels of discrimination compared with the rest of the world. Of course, there is always more that we can do, but that is what this Department is about: removing the barriers that are based on race, gender or disability and making sure that people can thrive. I am proud of the fact that our Home Secretary is from an ethnic minority and that our Chancellor is from an ethnic minority. We have also had two female Prime Ministers. How is that going for the Labour party?

T4. Constituents in Runnymede and Weybridge struggled last year to access Weybridge station because there was a broken lift. Thankfully this is now fixed, but can the Minister reassure my constituents that ensuring accessibility for all is a priority for this Government when franchises and contracts are awarded? (900387)

Far too often, I see people not able to get around on our rail network and make their connections because of exactly the issues that my new hon. Friend has raised. As employment Minister, that is a matter of real concern. I will take on that issue of access of opportunity, getting on in life and getting out and about. A broken lift that affects people is just plain wrong. I will take up that matter with transport Ministers on his behalf.

T3. Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate recently linked a steep and alarming decline in rape convictions with cuts to the criminal justice system, which have left it close to breaking point. What representations is the Minister making to the Ministry of Justice and the Treasury to ensure that rape victims are able to access justice? (900386)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. She will know that the report was part of the Government’s review of rape and how the criminal justice system is dealing with it. The review is ongoing and we are looking at other aspects, including the conduct of the police in rape investigations and how the criminal justice system is treating victims, given the rates of attrition. Regarding discussions with the Ministry of Justice, the Lord Chancellor is as committed to the review as the Home Secretary and I are. We expect at the end of the review to come up with meaty proposals to ensure that victims of rape and sexual assault get the justice they deserve.